REVIEW: New book by Aidan Nichols: Criticising the Critics

UPDATE 20 March: I am getting emails from people asking how they can get the book I was reading on the airplane yesterday (see that entry).  I am reposting this entry for their benefit.


ORIGINAL entry 7 March.


Earlier this week I mentioned in these electronic pages the provocative book by Fr. Aidan Nichols, OP, from Family Publications entitled The Realm: An Unfashionable Essay on the Conversion of England. (Order from Amazon UK click HERE.  This doesn’t seem to be available on the USA Amazon now.)

I received a copy of Fr. Nichols’ new work Criticising the Critics: Catholic Apologias for Today, also from Family Publications.

Inexplicably, this is not available through … yet.  But it is from the aforementioned Family Publications.

Fr. Nichols herein describes and responds to critics both inside and outside the Church.

His chapters are:

  1. For Modernists (Modernism a Century On)
  2. For Neo-Gnostics (Challenges to Orthodoxy and Mission)
  3. For Academic Exegetes (Reading Scripture in the Church)
  4. For Feminists (How God is Father)
  5. For Liberal Protestants (How Christ is Priest)
  6. For Progressive Catholics (The Council and the Gospel of Life)
  7. For the Erotically Absorbed (on the Nature of Lust)
  8. For Critics of Christendom (Secularization: A Catholic Response)

This final chapter is a response to the critics of what Nichols proposed in The Realm.

There are end notes, though not extensive, but no index, which is a bit of a drawback.

Led by Pope Benedict we are presently engaged in a struggle concerning our Catholic identity. Those who for the last decades have controlled the narrative about what it means to be Catholic, and controlled it within a very narrow band, are giving way to a new wave of Catholics who are looking at who they are and what they believe in continuity with a far deeper tradition. 

This slim book can give Catholics with a growing awareness of who they are a way of identifying both in themselves and in others certain tendencies to which we, as children of our own epoch, are necessarily subject.  Framed as a series of brief thematic responses, Nichols’ book will also help us as Catholics in the public square, and no doubt in our families as well, respond to common objections to Holy Church and our membership in her.

Furthermore, it is instructive, far-ranging and amusing.  I suspect that you, as I, will read this with pen in hand. 

(Of course you may be making your own index as I am doing while I read!)


Another worthy Nichols book:

The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI: An Introduction to the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger

UK link to buy
USA link to buy

Nichols together with Tracey Rowland’s excellent book will give you a very comprehensive and accurate view of the methodology and thought of Joseph Ratzinger.

USA link
UK link

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. stgemma_0411 says:

    Another book that I might recommend in this series of books on the inner workings of our Holy Father’s thought process is the following book by Dr. Scott Hahn.

    Covenant and Communion: The Biblical Theology of Pope Benedict XVI
    [I suspect that what Nichols and Rowland have done is on a different level of examination.]

  2. catholicmidwest says:

    Modernism is far from a “century on.” Modernism was (and I mean was) the endeavor to take the “story and promise” aspect of Christianity to understand the natural world, but without its context (God).

    It’s been an exercise in obfuscation for 100 years, simply because that’s what’s been needed to keep it afloat. Its last cruel bleat is being uttered in the US (and its tentacles in business and politics, not to mention reality TV) as I write.

  3. catholicmidwest says:

    You do realize, I hope, that many young people don’t see themselves as part of a grand narrative of history which makes inherent sense, right? And that they don’t have a personal narrative that follows them through their moral choices, their dispositions and their human relationships?

    The predominant worldview is changing by the minute, which means the dangers and opportunities are also changing.

  4. catholicmidwest says:

    And yes, I know it’s unthinkable from a modern point of view. That’s what makes it (and some people who don’t seem to care if they make sense or not) so confusing if the modern view is all one is accustomed to thinking about. But the proposition that this is happening across international western (so-called modern) culture is a valid one, and you can hear quite clearly it if you really listen.

  5. stgemma_0411 says:

    Fr. Z,

    While in most cases I would agree with the generalization that Dr. Hahn is a bit more of a “Catholicism for Dummies” type of writer, I was actually quite taken aback at the depth of study that he did into such a short volume. Using no less than 25 of Benedict’s works he very crisply summarizes the main points of Benedict’s Biblical Theology. I found it as a great primer as well as a solid companion to Fr. Nichols’ book on the Thought XVI. Can’t hurt to have on the shelf, especially if someone was looking for a quick understanding of the Holy Father’s thought, as it pertains to Biblical Theology.

  6. Random Friar says:

    Would anyone happen to know when this fine volume might hit the shores on this side of the pond?

  7. KAS says:

    Awesome! His new book makes me think of the writings of the early church Fathers, the apologists responding to Romans criticisms of Christianity.

  8. Luke says:

    Random Friar,

    Maybe we could tally the number of WDTPRSers who want a copy of this book. Then have Father Z do the order so we can get a deal on the shipping. The savings could be great enough for Father Z to make a small profit towards the site. Hmmm…maybe a sort of Amazon for solid Catholic books could emerge here and Father Z could expand his hardware into something worthy of AOL. But then, it would be a lot of hassle. True enough.

    I too am wondering whether to pay twelve pounds plus international shipping.

  9. Gail F says:

    Sounds like a new version of the first Chesterton book I ever read, “Heretics.” Each chapter in that one is a refutation of a different modern (at the time) thinker and his philosophy. I picked it up because I wanted to try Chesterton and it was the shortest book on the shelf, so if I didn’t like it I didn’t have much to lose. Electrifying! Not one of his most famous books but it made a huge impact on me. I would like to read this one.

  10. Gail F says:

    Luke: I’ll buy one!

  11. jbas says:

    They do have the Realm book listed on Amazon USA, so I think the more people who look it up there, the more determined they will be to get it in stock.

Comments are closed.